Monday, March 09, 2009

Bob Guskind: We Miss You

Bob Guskind
photo by Flatbush Gardener

Robert Guskind, author of the groundbreaking and prolific Brooklyn blog Gowanus Lounge, passed away on March 4th. His untimely death has been widely published and discussed, especially across the NYC blogosphere.

Though I didn't know Bob much beyond a steady stream of emails, IM's, and cross-postings over the past couple of years, I considered him very much a friend and a mentor. Much of imnotsayin's readership is directly attributable to Bob's frequent coverage of our posts on Gowanus Lounge and Curbed. Indeed, he gave us one of our first external links, and the resulting traffic sparked our enthusiasm for blogging - especially blogging about Brooklyn.

Bob's style and method has always informed our writing here, but his work ethic and sheer volume of posts left us (and perhaps all other NYC bloggers) in the dust. He lived 20 minutes from Williamsburg by car, but would often beat us to stories happening on our own block. Once, we both posted nearly identical stories - completely independent of each other's knowledge - within minutes of one another. We had a good chuckle when we realized we were both wired so close to one another that we wrote the same story at the same time. We cross-posted the piece, each giving the other partial credit for the scoop.

The breadth of Bob's reporting in Brooklyn - even while simultaneously covering the whole NYC real estate world for Curbed - was mind-boggling. He'd post coverage of Greenpoint goings-on in the morning, then somehow have his own photos and story of a demolition in Red Hook or Coney Island up by lunchtime. He was a fixture at neighborhood events - you could pick his big gentle frame with his SLR out of the packed crowd at Pool Party shows, or predictably find him covering a street party or blogger event; but were just as likely to see him walking alone in the Northside, shooting the latest street art, ridiculous bit of new architecture, or laughably-abandoned sidewalk sofa.

In the past year, Bob shared with me that he was having some personal difficulties, and I tried to be supportive from a distance. I'd recently had some tumultuous times in my own world that had worked out for the best, and I tried to reassure Bob that even extremely difficult things can have happy endings. I (and his thousands of devoted readers) were thrilled when Gowanus Lounge returned after several weeks' hiatus in September. But I knew that Bob was still struggling personally.

A few weeks ago, I'd planned to meet up with Bob socially, for a long-overdue dinner. He'd recently been laid off from his paid gig at Curbed, and he sounded a bit desperate to have someone to commiserate with; I had some new ideas I wanted to share about the two of us collaborating. That day I emailed him some encouragement, saying that I thought the economic downturn was camouflaging some potential business opportunities for bloggers and citizen journalism in general. He responded that afternoon:
Thanks for the pep talk. My feelings about this ping pong between, hey, there is opportunity here to "I am doomed, where do I buy hemlock?"
But I was feeling lousy that day, and I wound up canceling at the last minute. Looking back, I wonder if I failed to read between the lines and recognize the extent his despair: had I missed an opportunity to connect and inspire him that could have made a difference? I'll never know.

That said, lets remember Bob for the smiles he brought us: his LOL drubbings of serial starchitect Karl Fischer he dubbed "Hot Karl"; his relentless use of his own renames for some of the projects he was critical of, eg. "The Roebling Oil Field Building" and "The Giant Fart Cloud Building"; and his amazing eye for the sublime beauty in things as pedestrian as an abandoned couch on a Brooklyn street.

Often when meeting up for drinks after work, my girlfriend Christine and our close friend Amy's conversation would begin with "did you see what Bob posted today?" His coverage of Brooklyn goings-on created our subliminal agenda, and inspired us to go on frigid walking tours of far-flung neighborhoods, or crawl down a manhole to explore the Atlantic Avenue tunnel. Bob's Gowanus Lounge was one-stop shopping for Brooklyn politics, controversy, history, and culture, and was truly an unrivaled pulse for Brooklyn residents.

Bob's final post on Gowanus Lounge was this eerily serene musing from his recurring Street Couch Series:

Bob's final post

I believe that - if not on the surface - then deep inside, Bob left us at peace with himself.

We miss you Bob, but we won't forget you. YOU brought US great joy!

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